The Sketch: Let me introduce you to the minister for perpetual drudgery (work)

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Let's get the low, personal remarks out of the way before ascending to the Platonic level of discourse we expect from the Sketch.

In a competitive field, Jim Murphy wins the title of most boring voice in the Commons. He makes the moan in the Chandrapore caves sound like Freddie Mercury. He's with Work and Pensions but it's very hard to say whether he's a work minister or a pensions minister. Is he perpetual drudgery (work) or is he poverty, misery and death (pensions)? Is he the one that stops us earning enough to save for our old age (work)? Or the one that takes it off us before we die (pensions)? Is he the chump who says, "Owing to the educational maintenance allowance the number and proportion of young people in education has risen"? Or is he the poor fool who says, "The transitional reprioritisation will improve ownership of partnership strategies"?

Norman Baker asked rather brilliantly whether anyone had made an analysis of the quality of ministerial answers to parliamentary questions. He wanted a mechanism by which the Speaker could require a minister to answer properly.

It sounds reasonable. You think, what about stocks? A ducking stool, perhaps? Let's not bugger about. A rack. "Nothing personal, minister, but unless you tell us why the number of young people neither in work, training or education has risen by 30 per cent, I'm going to pour boiling sulphur into your lungs." Ah, but it's just a beautiful dream.

Gordon Prentice added to the point by asking how many MPs had put in Freedom of Information requests in order to get the information that ministers refuse to give. The minister said: "I don't think it's very many." By current front bench standards of obfuscatory evasion that was very unambitious. Rack him up, whoever he was. That pocket Scot who used to do energy.

This'll be handy: Four translations to help decode future parliamentary answers:

* We are providing the service in a range of other ways. (Cuts.)

* We have eradicated long-term youth unemployment. (The young grow up and become long-term adult unemployed.)

* We have always made clear. (Here's the U-turn.)

* It's unacceptable that's been going on for three years, so we'll be looking at it very carefully. (For another three years.)

* Unemployment was an integral part of Tory policy (We may be wasting £100bn a year buying votes, but we don't want to drink the blood of workers or break into their houses at night to infect their children with dirty needles.)

sketch@simoncarr.co.uk

Comments